Tag Archives: violet perfume

The Love and Lore of Violets

An excerpt from my herbal, Plants for A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles:

“Who are the violets now
That strew the lap of the new-come spring?” ~ Shakespeare: Richard II


Violet (Viola Odorata). Part Used: Flowers (dried). The leaves and whole plant (fresh).

Sweet violets grow at the edge of forests and clearings and can be detected by their scent. Sometimes they appear as unwanted guests in yards and gardens, but we like violets and encourage them here. Violets have a long history reaching deep into the misty past. There are over two hundred species in the world; five are native to Great Britain. Sweet violets are usually dark purple, but may be white. The flowers are full of honey and appealing to bees, but usually bloom before bees are really out from as early as late February into April.

Viola OdorataViolets imbue liquids with their color and fragrance and make a divine perfume. A medicinal syrup of violets is given as a laxative considered mild enough for children, and for a variety of other ailments. Old herbalists recommended the syrup for ague (acute fever), inflammation of the eyes, insomnia, pleurisy, jaundice, and many other illnesses. They had great faith in its healing attributes. Among other components, violets contain salicylic acid which is used to make aspirin.

As with primroses, violets have been associated with death, particularly of the young. This is referred to by the poets, including Shakespeare in Hamlet. Ancient Britons used violet flowers as a cosmetic, and in a Celtic poem they are recommended to be employed steeped in goats’ milk to increase female beauty. In the Anglo-Saxon translation of the Herbarium of Apuleius (tenth century), the herb V. purpureum is recommended ‘for new wounds and eke for old’ and for ‘hardness of the maw.’ In Macer’s Herbal (tenth century) the Violet is among the many herbs which were considered powerful against ‘wykked sperytis.’  (A Modern Herbal)

Gar Flower Web Blue Violet

Askham’s Herbal Violet Recipe for Insomnia: “For the that may not slepe for sickness seeth this herb in water and at even let him soke well hys feete in the water to the ancles, wha he goeth to bed, bind of this herbe to his temples.”

spray of beautiful dark blue violets

To Make Syrup of Violets: Tale 1 lb. of Sweet Violet flowers freshly picked, add 2 ½ pints of boiling water, infuse these for twenty-four hours in a glazed china vessel, then pour off the liquid and strain it gently through muslin; afterwards add double its weight of the finest loaf sugar and make it into a syrup, but without letting it boil. (A Modern Herbal)

“Viola Odorata is an ancient heirloom, which the Greeks used in love potions, and beloved by our grandmothers and their grandmothers because of its sweet perfume, delicate purple to deep bluish purple flower and heart-shaped leaves.” ~ Quote from Cherry Gal, an interesting website that sells heirloom violet seeds, amongst other offerings.

violet“I know a bank, where the wild thyme blows Where ox-lips, and the nodding violet grows; Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.” ~ William Shakespeare

“Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you.” ~Edward Payson Rod

“You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.” ~Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, 1964

For The Love of Violets~

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” ~ Mark Twain

“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.” ~Tennessee Williams

“The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of it’s scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.”

~Therese of Lisieux

“Everything about Florence seems to be colored with a mild violet, like diluted wine.” ~Henry James

“Each violet peeps from its dwelling to gaze at the bright stars above.” ~Heinrich Heine

“Inside, the cathedral is a Gothic forest dappled in violet twilight and vast with quiet.” ~Wendy Insinger

“I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.”
Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Afternoon on a Hill”

“To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat.” ~
Beverly Nichols

“A violet by a mossy stone Half hidden from the eye! Fair as a star when only one Is shining in the sky.” ~ William Wordsworth

*Image of violets taken by daughter Elise

Big doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Sunflowers aren’t better than violets.”  ~ Edna Ferber


“Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.”

~Walt Whitman

“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.” ~
Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts, 1858

“Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock. ”
~Henry Ward Beecher

“The snowdrop and primrose our woodlands adorn, And violets bathe in the wet o’ the morn.”
~ Robert Burns

“I have loved flowers that fade, Within those magic tents Rich hues have marriage made With sweet unmemoried scents.”
~Robert Seymour Bridges

From this site on violets and perfume: “Violet (Viola odorata), also called Sweet Violet grows in the regions of Mediterranean and Asia Minor. Its delicate purple, white, or variegated flower appears early in the spring time before the trees grow leaves. Violet is well known for its sweet floral odor, but also for its wide variety of therapeutic properties: it helps with cold, asthma, rheumatism, and a range of infections (including syphilis).

Violet was a symbol of ancient Athens, and also a favorite flower of Napoleon Bonaparte. In the 19th century, violet based perfumes were very popular.

The odor of violet flower is different than the one of the leaves. The flower possesses a sweet powdery to woodsy-flowery scent due to ionones, first separated from the Parma violet by Tiemann and Kruger in 1893. The discovery of ionones enabled production of synthetic violet scent identical and not as expensive as the precious natural oil.”

From The Beautiful Scent of a Violet:

“I look upon the pleasure which we take in a garden, as one of the most innocent delights in human life.”

~Joseph Addison

There are records of sweet violets growing during the first century AD in Persia, Syria, and Turkey. Violets have been introduced elsewhere and are now cultivated in several countries for their lovely and exotic scent used in the perfume industry.


“Where fall the tears of love the rose appears, And where the ground is bright with friendship’s tears, Forget-me-not, and violets, heavenly blue, Spring glittering with the cheerful drops like dew.”
~William Cullen Bryant